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Record Numbers of CWAers attend the CWA/USW Health, Safety & Environment Conference

Over one hundred CWA health and safety activists from over 47 local unions and CWA staff gathered at the 2023 CWA/USW Health Safety, and Environment Conference held in Pittsburgh, PA on April 17-21 at the Westin Convention Center and Hotel. This was a milestone for CWA attendance at this event. CWAers came from every single CWA District and multiple sectors, many for the first time. We had the most diverse representation of activists from CWA-represented workplaces ever, with CWAers from airlines (passenger service and flight attendants), healthcare, public sector, manufacturing, and telecommunications including Mobility and members from the Tower Climbers Union (TCU)/CWA Organizing Committee (OC). This was the first, in-person conference since 2019 because of the pandemic and the total attendance swelled to over 2,000 people. There were over 130 unique workshops offered throughout the week and multiple plenary sessions.

Micki Siegel de Hernandez, CWA’s National Deputy Director for Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) said, “It warmed my heart to see so many CWAers gathered together, all united in purpose to gain knowledge and skills to bring back to their locals. We need to continue to swell the ranks of health and safety activists in every corner of the Union. The most important tool we have in the fight for safe working conditions is collective action and a membership and leadership at all levels standing up together to make a difference.” 

Ebony Adkins, CWA Local 1040 Branch President and Local 1040 H&S Committee member, who is a Corrections Officer 3 working at the Northern State Prison in Newark, NJ said:

The CWA/USW Health and Safety conference was an amazing experience that I was honored to be a part of. The workshops that impacted me the most were, "Increasing the Effectiveness of Labor-Management Health and Safety Committees, "Disaster Preparedness and Response," and "Recognizing and Identifying Workplace Hazards". The information that was provided at this conference gave me the tools to restructure and build a stronger health and safety committee for my worksite.”

Qushaun ‘Q’ Naugle, President of CWA Local 4201 representing passenger service agents at American Airlines at Chicago O’Hare, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Columbus, and Detroit as well as Piedmont in Detroit:

“As President of Local 4201 I was able to bring 7 of my safety stewards to the CWA/USW conference in Pittsburgh. The event helped us tremendously, especially Micki Siegel de Hernandez and Charles Craddock’s course on fighting for health & safety. No matter how many times we come to this conference we always learn something new and better ways to protect our members. Safety is non-negotiable and we strive to make our workplace safe. Thanks to this course we are able to apply a lot of skills and traits that we have acquired from this conference.”

From Sean Duncan, CWA Local 2201 member:

“The 2023 USW/CWA Health, Safety, and Environmental Conference  left me with new knowledge and understanding of the great work that this union does. I appreciate the flexibility and individuality of the training courses that I was able to select based upon my personal need.”

From Corne Jones aka CJ, President of IUE-CWA Local 86787:

"The easiest way to endanger yourself and others, is to be without knowledge of your safety rules and rights. I took an Oath, as President, to protect workers on the job and do all I can to help keep us safe. The Safety Conference enabled us to gain knowledge of how and what it takes to be successful in being safe.”

From Garren M. Steiner, President CWA Local 1014:

“I had the honor of attending the United SteelWorkers & CWA Health and Safety conference last week in Pittsburgh. A paramount concern of mine is the overall safety and mental well being of our members. I attended two extremely beneficial workshops that will help our Local in continuing the improvement of our membership: Psychosocial Hazards and Workplace Mental Health and Preventing and Addressing Workplace Violence, Including Bullying.”

Eric Tavegia, OC member, Tower Climbers Union/CWA:

“The safety conference for me was super empowering and it demonstrates the commitment our union brothers and sisters have for each other, ensuring we are all protected, safe, and taken care of.  This conference really drives home the fact that we all matter and are responsible for pushing our industries to be safer.” 

Ryan Dupal, OC member, Tower Climbers Union/CWA:

The safety conference gave me the opportunity to learn from members of different trades on how they are implementing safety standards and protocols in their workplaces. Hearing workers' stories inspired some ideas on how we can approach addressing safety standards in the Tower industry.”

Chris Gross, Chief Steward, IUE-CWA Local 84755, Dmax:

“Safety training and conferences should never be overlooked, they are very important.  As Chief Steward I am ultimately responsible for the safety of 1000 people and I take that responsibility seriously. Ensuring that myself, our union, and salary safety teams attend these conferences is vital to our success in safety. It helps us build a culture driven safety program with joint leadership.  Safety is something myself and management staff always strive to come together on. Protecting our members is of the utmost importance. The conference's speakers and breakout sessions provide very valuable information and material.  I highly recommend and encourage all our locals to seek out all the training IUE-CWA provides but especially the safety trainings.”

Some special CWA highlights from the conference included:

  • CWA facilitated and co-facilitated workshops by CWA District trainers including Denise Abbott, CWA Local 1168 in District 1; Charles "Bubba" Craddock, CWA Local 2201 in District 2-13; Lou Mondragon, CWA Local 9416 in District 9; Randy Rodriguez, CWA Local 6222 in District 6; as well as Micki Siegel de Hernandez, CWA Deputy Director for Occupational Safety and Health from CWA HQ. The CWA facilitated workshops were “Fighting for Health and Safety: Collective Action, Mobilization and Other Tools,” “Fixing the Hazards We've Found: Using the Hierarchy of Controls to Get the Right Fixes,” “ Working in Extreme Temperatures,” “Preventing  Preventing Exposure to Lead at Work,” and a series of healthcare-related topics (see below).
  • A welcome to CWAers at the opening plenary session from Micki Siegel de Hernandez.
  • A CWA only caucus meeting was held on the first day of the conference to bring together all CWAers.
  • Attendance by members of the Tower Climbers Union/CWA Organizing Committee members who attended the union-only, opening day of the conference on their way to the CWA Wireless Conference. Tower Climbers work in one of the most dangerous industries and the TCU/CWAers are fighting for safe working conditions and fundamental changes to the industry to achieve a better life for all tower climbers.
  • A special healthcare track of workshops held on Wednesday which included the workshops, “Violence Prevention in Healthcare, Safe Patient Handling, and a healthcare panel with three presentations.” For the CWA panel presentations, Denise Abbott, the Health and Safety Director from CWA Local 1168 and Sharon Scime, the Health and Safety Director from CWA Local 1133 showcased CWA’s incredible efforts over decades to win safe staffing in NY.
  • A strong show of support for the striking workers…now in the sixth month of the strike… from CWA Locals 14827, CWA Local 14842, TNG-CWA Local 38061, Pressman’s Local 24M, and Teamsters Local 205 against the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by having a CWA table with strike materials and information staffed by strikers, an address about the strike to the CWA caucus by TNG-CWA striking member Ed Blazina and CWA District 2-13 staff representative Jonathan Remington, and participation by CWA conference attendees in a nighttime picket line at the Post-Gazette distribution center.

The conference was invigorating and renewed the drive of all those in attendance to bring back the information learned to take actions to improve health and safety conditions back at their worksites. The fight for workplace health and safety never ends.